LOU REED (1942–2013) believed that rock, the pastime of the people, could be great, or it wasn’t worth doing, though he always knew he wasn’t bigger than humanity’s problems and never wanted to be as grand as those who put themselves above it all. The canon of outcast poets that inspired the Velvet Underground’s oeuvre, the extremes of existence that informed his early solo career, his crowning album-length explorations of fame (Songs for Drella) and death (Magic and Loss) and urban decay (New York) and his epic-theatre conversations with the giants of populist ponderings about science and existence (Time Rocker, a kind of H.G. Wells rock musical, and POEtry, about who else) — he scaled the mountains in whose shadows we try and survive. He stayed at human scale himself, in proportion to the personal honesty and effort and imagination he felt should be all we need. Greatness was available to us the more of us who sang along, coming together but refusing to join up. Legendarily sour of mood, lover of noise, angel of the unaccepted, he died cherished, serene, renowned, and in the end, great. But still no more than one of us. The saint who rejected heaven and can never really leave our side.
READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).